Responsible mineral and energy futures: Views at the nexus

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Journal Article
Journal of Cleaner Production, 2014, 84 (1), pp. 322 - 338
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© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. In an era of mineral resource constraints and radical transition in the energy sector, this paper reviews the extent to which a long-term view of production and use is adopted in both sectors. A long-term view including the mineral-energy nexus is deemed to be necessary (although not sufficient) for managing future resource constraints and energy transitions. Alarmingly, it identifies that the future of minerals resources and production is generally viewed only 5-10 years ahead rather than several decades or more as for energy. Additionally, the sectors are generally studied independently, rather than with a focus on the nexus. With these findings as evidence of an unaddressed problem, the paper then focusses on the current forces for change in the minerals industry: namely community drivers regarding social licence to operate, new technologies and consumer and government drivers on responsible minerals. As discussions of sustainable development become displaced by the emerging discourse of 'responsible' minerals, what is adopted and discarded? Whilst responsible minerals considers chain-of-custody, it does not adopt a long-term view and overlooks the mineral-energy nexus. Using three illustrative cases at the nexus of (i) rare earths-renewables, (ii) coal-steel and (iii) uranium-nuclear we extend the theoretical discussion on 'responsible' with a range of contemporary examples from the perspectives of producing (Australia) and consuming countries (Japan, Switzerland) and propose a research agenda for an expanded notion of responsible minerals which recognises the complexity of the mineral-energy nexus and connects it to progressing sustainable futures.
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